Back and Joint Pain

Pain is scary. Not knowing the source of your pain can be terrifying. But the majority of back pain is structural and fairly easily remedied.

Muscles, ligaments and tendons hold your bones in place. Think of each bone in your spine as a spool of thread held taunt between two rubber bands. If the right side is weak, and the left side is pulling with normal tension, the spool is going to shift to the left. If the right side is knotted up, due to lack of nutrients, the spool will pull to the right. Either way results in pain.

The most common source of back and neck pain is a soft tissue issue involving muscles, ligaments and tendons. Not a problem with the bones!

If your soft tissues aren’t strong enough to hold the bones in place you’ll be in pain. The sources of weakness include a lack of nutrients due to a nutritionally deprived diet, digestive problems that prevent the assimilation of nutrients, or a lack of exercise and stretching. Exercise is essential to promote the flow of blood which distributes nutrients to organs, glands and tissues.

Chiropractors, and some Osteopaths treat patients with spinal manipulation to realign bones.

Exercises prescribed by a Physical Therapist can help strengthen soft tissue to keep bones where you want them to be.

Acupuncture and Tui Na (Chinese Medicinal Massage) can relax the muscles to permit the bones to shift back into place. Chinese Herbal Formulas alleviate pain by treating a wide range of underlying issues that may have caused the pain.

These include the following:

Pain when you cough, sneeze or receive an abrupt jolt are an indication of disc inflammation or a bulging disc.

Pain when lying too long in one position, or pain with pressure, indicates inflammation. Bromelain is a digestive enzyme. Taken between meals it effectively treats inflammation. The adult dose is 500 – 1,000 mg (1-2 pills) at least one hour before or after meals. Setting your cell phone alarm for an hour after eating is a helpful reminder. If your stools become loose, or you experience diarrhea, stop the Bromelain. This indicates the inflammation is resolved and the supplement is just digesting your food. Never use Bromelain in cases of head injuries unless anti-inflammatories have been okayed by your doctor.

If you have pain first thing in the morning, or after not moving for an extended period of time, TCM calls this Blood Stasis and Qi Stagnation. Blood flow has been restricted and muscle tissues aren’t being sufficiently nourished. Bruises are an example of Blood Stasis. You see old, dark blood just under the skin. When this occurs deeper in the body you can’t see it, but you sure feel it.

Pain with hot swollen joints is known as Hot Bi Syndrome.

Pain due to cold is known as Cold Bi Syndrome.

Pain on the bottoms of your feet, especially the ball of the foot, and depressions from tight socks, indicate edema. Edema is an accumulation of fluid in the muscle tissues.

To differentiate between inflammation and edema press the swollen area with your fingertip for at least six seconds. If the pressed area recovers immediately, it’s inflammation. If you still see the indentation it’s edema.

Walking, even in place, helps resolve mild edema by stimulating your lymph glands to disperse the accumulated fluid.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Formulas can treat edema, inflammation, circulation problems, inflamed or bulging discs, bone fractures, bone degeneration, pain from old injuries, bone spurs, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, and knotted muscles.

Now let’s discuss joint pain.

Muscles have their own blood supply. Ligaments and tendons don’t! They connect muscle to bone, holding your joints in place, enabling them to bend and move freely. But they must receive nutrients from surrounding tissues. Stretching pumps nutrients into ligaments and tendons.

When the neck is out of alignment it may restrict the flow of blood down your arms, causing pain or discomfort in your shoulders, elbows, wrist or fingers.

When the hips are out of alignment it may restrict the flow of blood down your legs and cause pain or discomfort in you hips, knees, ankles and toes.

Numbness or tingling indicates bones pressing on blood vessels restricting the flow of blood down your arms or legs. Electrical or burning pain means nerves are being impinged.

Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Osteopaths, and Massage Therapists all have techniques to deal with these issues. Even within the same modality techniques vary. You may have to look around to find a state licensed practitioner that works for you.

But none of these modalities will be effective, or achieve lasting results, without appropriate exercise and addressing the nutritional component. Herbal and other nutritional supplements play and important role in treating muscular-skeletal pain. Feed your tissues so they can take care of you.

Health & Happiness,

Nancy Burton, L.Ac.